Independent Lens: Season 5, Episode 16

Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (22 Jul. 2004)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 41 users  
Reviews: 3 user | 1 critic

An intimate portrait of 76-year-old jazz vocal legend Jimmy Scott. The film explores Scott's odyssey of loss and redemption through reminiscence, song, and lush Japanese travelogue.


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Title: Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (22 Jul 2004)

Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (22 Jul 2004) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Episode credited cast:
Dwayne Cook Broadnax ...
Himself (drums)
Herself - Host
Michael Kanan ...
David Ritz ...
Justin Robinson ...
Jimmy Scott ...
Grady Tate ...


An intimate portrait of 76-year-old jazz vocal legend Jimmy Scott. The film explores Scott's odyssey of loss and redemption through reminiscence, song, and lush Japanese travelogue.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





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Release Date:

22 July 2004 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema)

Sound Mix:


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Did You Know?


Everybody Needs Somebody
(Biggs - Madison - McCoy)
Performed by Little Jimmy Scott
courtesy of Savoy Records/Denon Digital
See more »

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User Reviews

Would be excellent program material for PBS, A&E, BRAVO, etc.
17 July 2002 | by See all my reviews

I saw this exquisite documentary at the Atlanta Film Festival last month where it got a standing ovation and subsequently received the Audience Choice Award as the festival's best overall film. Although the story of Jimmy Scott's tragic life and singing career has been covered previously in other documentaries, and his story of being the victim of unscrupulous musical industry executives is not unique, this film tells his story in a thoughtful, empathetic manner that grabs and holds your attention from beginning to end. Certainly Scott is a compelling subject, and the film maximizes that fact by not just presenting us with a stream of talking-head friends, relatives, peers, etc., but by focusing on Jimmy Scott telling us who Jimmy Scott is. The film really gets it right when it allows Scott to reflect on how and why his life unfolded the way it did, and then drives these points home with Scott's renditions of poignant songs in their entirety. The filmmakers clearly understand the dramatic value of Scott's jazz vocals and his choices of material. They expose us to the anguish and pain of Scott's life in his own words and music, yet at the same time make it inspirational. The film is crafted in a loving and reverential way, and this may be its one minor weakness because it only alludes to the less attractive aspects of Scott's life and glosses over the 10-15 year period when Scott was not recording or performing. I suspect that presenting this part of Scott's life more fully would have revealed some other fascinating anecdotal evidence that ignited Jimmy's infectious enthusiasm for living and led to his "rediscovery." Yet, in just under 80 minutes, the film ultimately accomplishes something unusual for a takes the viewer on a full-gamut emotional journey. It certainly deserves a wider distribution and larger audience than it is receiving on the film festival circuit.

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